Category Archives: Doctors of the Church

“Labor while it is yet day.” -St Ambrose, (340-397 AD), Doctor & Father of the Church

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“Give thanks, Brethren, to the Divine Mercy which has brought you safely halfway through the season of Lent. For this favor they give praise to God, thankfully and with devotion, who in these days have striven to live in the manner which they were instructed at the beginning of Lent; that is, those who, coming with eagerness to the Church, have sought with sighs and tears, in daily fasting and alms deeds, to obtain the forgiveness of their sins.

They, however, who have neglected this duty, that is to say, those who have not fasted daily, or given alms, or those who were indifferent or unmoved in prayer, they have no reason to rejoice, but rather, unhappy that they are, for mourning. Yet let them not mourn as if they had no hope; for He Who could give back sight to the blind from birth (cf. Jn 9), can likewise change those who now are lukewarm and indifferent into souls fervent and zealous in His service, if with their whole heart they desire to be converted unto Him. Let such persons acknowledge their own blindness of heart, and let them draw near to the Divine Physician that they may be restored to sight.

Would that you might seek the medicine of the soul when you have sinned, as you seek that of the body when you are ill in the flesh. Who now in this so great assembly were he condemned, not to be put to death, but to be deprived of his sight only, would not give all he possessed to escape the danger? And if you so fear the death of the flesh, what do you not fear more than the death of the spirit, especially since the pains of death, that is, of the body, are but of an hour, whilst the death of the soul, that is, its punishment and its grieving, has no end? And if you love the eyes of your body, that you soon will lose in death, why do you not love those eyes of the soul by which you may see your Lord and your God forever?

Labor therefore, Beloved Children in the Lord, labor while it is yet day; for as Christ Our Lord says, The night cometh, when no man can work (Jn 9:4) Daytime is this present life; night is death, and the time that follows death. If after this life there is no more freedom to work, as the Truth tells us, why then does every man not labor while he yet lives in this world?

Be fearful, Brethren, of this death, of which the Savior says: The night cometh, when no man can work. All those who now work evil are without fear of this death, and because of this, when they depart from this life they shall encounter everlasting death. Labor while yet ye live, and particularly in these days; fasting from delicate fare, withholding yourselves at all time from evil works. For those that abstain from food, but do not withhold themselves from wickedness, are like to the devil, who while he eats not, yet never ceases from evildoing. And lastly, you must know that what you deny yourself in fasting, you must give to heaven in the poor.

Fulfill in work, Brethren, the lesson of this day . . . lest there come upon you the chastisement of the Jews. For they said to the blind man: Be thou his disciple (Jn 9:28). What does being a disciple of Christ mean if not to be an imitator of His compassion, and a follower of His truth and humility? But they said this meaning to curse the man. Instead it is a truly great blessing, to which may you also attain, by His grace Who liveth and reigneth unto ages of ages. Amen.”

St. Ambrose, Sermon on Lent

Love,
Matthew

“We are saved by those we despise.” -Pope St Gregory the Great

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-by Dr. C. Colt Anderson, PhD

Saint Gregory the Great taught that God uses the people we despise to save us. This does not necessarily mean people that we hate, but people we think little of or that we see as impure. Those who we see as steeped in sin today often surpass us in holiness tomorrow. His example of such a person was St. Paul, who participated in the brutal murder of St. Stephen before becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles. In the Forty Gospel Homilies, Gregory preached that God places these people in the Church so that we are forced to recognize our own imperfection. They highlight the contrast between the richness of God’s mercy and the littleness of our own judgments.

Humble Christians, who have a sense of their imperfection, are able to be sympathetic to the struggles of sinners. Humility breaks through the walls of the self and allows the Christian to love others. For Gregory, love always involves an extension or gift of self to another, which is not really possible for people who feel self-satisfied and self-sufficient. This type of love, which he called the bond of charity, can only be learned in a community and can only be achieved through humility.

The bond of charity is central to Gregory’s spirituality and his understanding of the Church. He believed Christ’s perfect and solid uprightness (soliditas standi) is not given to His followers through the grace of redemption; instead, Christians are justified through the firmness of love (soliditas caritatis) found in the Church. Since God only accepts the humble and contrite heart, and since God rejects the proud, the effort to extend ourselves to those we despise is an integral part of the process of sanctification. In fact, the Church purifies us by demanding this extension of patience, love, and mercy to those we despise.

This dynamic is also why there are so many irritating people in the Church. We need people who are irritating, offensive, and even wicked, in order to exercise patience, mercy, and forgiveness. The Church brings us all together so that we can learn to be like God. It is a mixed community: good fish and bad fish, sheep and goats, wheat and tares. If I am irritating you, I might be serving as an opportunity to grow in holiness. You’re welcome.

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The fact that God frequently moves the people we may see as sinful to great holiness also inspires hope. It shows us that we should not ever give up on anyone. If your son or daughter, aunt or uncle, mother or father, friend or spouse has fallen away and seems steeped in sin, realize that they may yet excel in holiness.

Because we are saved by those we despise, we must welcome people to our communion and avoid attitudes and actions that discourage them from entering or returning to our community, which is what Pope Francis has been emphasizing. The challenge, of course, is to stop despising anyone, which I must confess I have not quite mastered.

If you are comfortable with despising people and wish to exclude the impure, you may have fallen into the sin of Donatism, a heresy that seeks a pure Church on Earth. The new Donatism is growing increasingly evident.

Lord, save & protect us, help us love one another, especially when that is most inconceivable. We shall receive mercy from You in proportion as we offer it to those we despise. Help us love one another, for our own sake. Be merciful to us, Lord, for we have done what is evil in Your sight.

Love,
Matthew

St Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Remedies for sadness

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I suffer from clinical depression.  I was diagnosed in 1994; meds, therapy, the whole nine yards.  So sadness to me is not unfamiliar or infrequent.  It is a cursed associate:  soul & body, body & soul.

In Roman Catholicism, the theology of the body is based on the belief that the human body has its origin in God. It will be, like the body of Jesus, Resurrected, transformed and taken into heavenly glory.

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 § 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.”  -CCC 382

On certain days we have all been sad, days when we have been unable to overcome an inner torpor or depression that weighs down on us and makes it difficult to interact with others. Is there a trick for overcoming sorrow and recovering our smile? St. Thomas Aquinas suggests five remedies against sadness that have proven surprisingly effective (Summa Theologiae, I–II, q. 38).

The first remedy is granting ourselves something we like. It’s as though the famous theologian had already intuited seven centuries ago that “chocolate is an antidepressant.” (YEAH!! 🙂 )This might seem a bit materialistic, but no one would deny that a tough day can end well with a good beer (DOUBLE YEAH!!!). It’s hard to refute this by citing the Gospel, since our Lord took part joyfully in banquets and feasts, and both before and after his Resurrection enjoyed the noble and good things in life. One of the Psalms even says that wine gladdens the human heart (although the Bible also clearly condemns getting drunk).

The second remedy is weeping. St. Thomas says “a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened” (I-II q. 38 a. 2). Our melancholy gets worse if we have no way to give vent to our sorrow. Weeping is the soul’s way to release a sorrow that can become paralyzing. Jesus too wept. And Pope Francis said that “certain truths in life can only be seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I invite each of you to ask yourself: Have I learned how to cry?”

The third remedy is sharing our sorrow with a friend. I recall here the friend of Renzo in Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed. Finding himself alone in his deserted home ravaged by the plague and mourning his family’s horrible fate, he tells Renzo: “What has happened is horrible, something that I never thought I would live to see; it’s enough to take away a person’s joy for the rest of his life. But speaking about these things with a friend is a great help.” This is something we have to experience in order to understand it. When we are sad, we tend to see everything in tints of gray. A very effective antidote is opening our heart to a friend. Sometimes a brief message or phone call is enough for our outlook to once again be filled with light.

The fourth remedy against sadness is contemplating the truth. Contemplating the “fulgor veritatis” St. Augustine speaks of, the splendor of truth in nature or a work of art or music, can be an effective balm against sadness. A literary critic, a few days after the death of a dear friend, was scheduled to speak at a conference about the topic of adventure in the works of Tolkien. He began by saying: “Speaking about beautiful things to people interested in them is for me a real consolation …” Amen.

The fifth remedy suggested by St. Thomas is perhaps something we wouldn’t expect from a medieval thinker. The theologian says that a wonderful remedy against sadness is bathing and sleeping. Amen. It’s a deeply Christian viewpoint that in order to alleviate a spiritual malady one will sometimes have to resort to a bodily remedy. Ever since God became Man, and therefore took on a body, the separation between matter and spirit has been overcome in this world of ours.

A widespread error is that Christianity is based on the opposition between soul and body (a deadly heresy, actually…), with the latter being seen as a burden or obstacle for the spiritual life. But the right view of Christian humanism is that the human person (both body and soul) is completely “spiritualized” by seeking union with God.

No one thinks it strange to seek out a physician who cares for the body as a guide for a spiritual illness,” says St. Thomas More. “The body and soul are so closely united that together they form a single person, and hence a malady of one can sometimes be a malady of both. Therefore, I would advise everyone, when confronted with a physical illness, to first go to confession, and seek out a good spiritual doctor for the health of their soul. Likewise for some sicknesses of the soul, besides going to the spiritual physician, one should also go to a physician who cares for the body.”

Love, and always praying for your well being. Give Praise to our Creator Who wonderfully made us!!!
Matthew

Dec 14 – the path to nothing…

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-El Monte Carmelo

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Br Constantius Sanders, OP

St. John of the Cross is probably best known for his masterpiece on the spiritual life The Dark Night of the Soul. But it is his commentary and exposition on The Dark Night, entitled The Ascent of Mount Carmel, that is likely his most helpful work. In it, he describes three paths that souls may follow in their spiritual life. Two are wide, one is narrow. The two wide paths are labeled “the goods of heaven” and “the goods of earth.” The narrow path is labeled simply as “nothing.” Each of the paths aims to lead up the mountain to God, but only one path makes it. While the Christian knows that the goods of earth alone do not lead a soul to God, St. John of the Cross also dismisses the path of the goods of heaven. Only the path of nothingness leads us to God. And while it is a path with nothing on it, I think we can still use the benefit of a guide along the journey. And there may be no better guide than St. John of the Cross.

The goods of heaven and the goods of earth listed by St. John of the Cross compose a rather attractive list: rest, consolation, knowledge, joy, and glory. It is a collection of goods that would be hard to refuse. But, when goods other than God are sought, we are paradoxically unable to possess them. As he says, “The more I desired to possess them, the less I had.” When sought for their own sake, they lose what makes them truly good. For example, it is impossible to simply find joy. One must find it in something or someone else. In the spiritual life, when we desire not joy, but God, we end up possessing both. Or, as he puts it, “Now that I no longer desire them, I have them all without desire.”

But, the real goal remains ahead: God alone. St. John still serves as our guide. He is one who has gone through it and is showing us the way. He helps keep our gaze firmly on what is truly good and worthy of our love. But, this path of nothing is nonetheless full. It is filled with the witness, teaching, and prayers of saints. While we seek God alone, we know we are never alone: a cloud of witnesses surrounds us.

The example of numerous witnesses attests to the wisdom of St. John of the Cross. He has been a guide for such figures as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Holy Cross (Edith Stein), and Pope St. John Paul II. In fact, it was under the guidance of another great theologian, the Dominican master Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, that a young Karol Wojtyla wrote a dissertation on the thought of St. John of the Cross. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange had long been a proponent of the consistency of thought between the scholastic insights of St. Thomas Aquinas and the mystical ones of St. John of the Cross. It was with his consultation that St. John of the Cross was named a Doctor of the Church. And that “doctoral” status may be as good a reason as any to trust him as our guide.”

“To possess all, do not possess anything at all. To be all, be nothing of nothing . . .” -St John of the Cross

Love,
Matthew

Dec 7 – Called to be a contradiction

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-by Br Albert Thomas Dempsey, OP

“Today, the Church celebrates the feast of one of her great doctors, St. Ambrose of Milan, who offers us a model of public Christian witness.

In 374 A.D, against his own wishes, St. Ambrose became archbishop of Milan, a city riven by the Arian heresy and at that time the residence of one of the Roman co-emperors. He quickly embraced an ascetical life, gave to the poor, and reformed the liturgy of his diocese. Enduring many hardships (including, according to the Golden Legend of Bl. James of Voraigne, O.P., an assassination attempt ordered by the Western empress herself), he strove to convert the heretics of his diocese back to belief in the divinity of Christ, soon establishing a reputation as an eloquent speaker and a prolific author on Christian doctrine. In fact, his intelligent exposition of the Christian faith played an instrumental role in the conversion of St. Augustine, whom St. Ambrose baptized in 387 A.D.

St. Ambrose’s life and writings remain a stirring example of the apostolic life, one combining prayer with tireless effort for the salvation of souls. Preacher and scholar, liturgical reformer and defender of the poor, refuter of error and loving shepherd of wayward Christians: the holy archbishop of Milan showed the compatibility of roles too often assumed to be mutually exclusive in our present age.

Since we live at a time in which civil authorities are often at odds with Church teachings, perhaps St. Ambrose is most exemplary as a champion of Christianity in the face of civil excesses. As a prominent churchman and archbishop of an imperial capital, the saint often interacted with the potentates of his day. On three occasions, St. Ambrose, himself a former magistrate, championed the liberty of the faith in the face of imperial encroachment. In 385 A.D., he refused to allow Valentinian II to quarter Arian soldiers in a basilica. In 388 A.D., when a certain bishop expressed his opinion in a way that angered the emperor Theodosius, Ambrose challenged Theodosius’ punishment that the bishop use Church funds to rebuild a house of worship for unbelievers. Most famously, St. Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius for ordering the massacre of 7,000 civilians in the city of Thessalonica. According to St. Augustine, the emperor responded to his chastisement with humility and did penance for his sins; St. Ambrose himself spoke movingly at the emperor’s funeral of the emperor’s contrition for his sin and fortitude in offering public penance. This of course is the salubrious purpose of ecclesiastical censures: to prevent the sinner from inducing others to sin and to encourage him to repent.

Since ours is a time when civil authorities increasingly countenance — and even engage in — immoral activities, St. Ambrose’s courageous actions show us that Christians cannot remain silent. All too often, Americans believe that the separation of Church and State necessitates the exclusion of religious belief from the public sphere. However, St. Ambrose anticipated many of these concerns in a letter pleading with Theodosius not to force the Church to rebuild a non-Christian house of worship: “But it is neither the part of an Emperor to deny liberty of speech, nor of a Bishop not to utter what he thinks.” He continues:

‘For there is this difference between good and bad rulers, that the good love freedom, the bad slavery. And there is nothing in a Bishop so offensive in God’s sight, or so base before men, as not freely to declare his opinions… I prefer then, to have fellowship with your Majesty in good rather than in evil; and therefore the silence of a Bishop ought to be displeasing to your Clemency, and his freedom pleasing. For you will be implicated in the danger of my silence, you will share in the benefits of my outspokenness. I am not then an officious meddler in matters beyond my province, an intruder in the concerns of others, but I comply with my duty, I obey the commandment of our God. This I do chiefly from love and regard to you, and from a wish to preserve your well-being. But if I am not believed, or am forbidden to act on this motive, then in truth I speak from fear of offending God. (Ambrose, Epist. XL.2-3, trans. H. Walford, 1881)’

By faith, Catholics believe that certain actions, such as murder and perjury, are objectively evil, regardless of whether or not the person performing them is a Christian. In such cases, it is, in fact, a work of mercy to rebuke the sinner. Moreover, the Church’s mission is to save all mankind, Catholics and non-Catholics, clergy and rulers, by leading them to accept the deposit of faith entrusted to her. For this reason, and on account of the superiority of the spiritual to the temporal, Pope Boniface VIII wrote in his bull Unam Sanctam, “It belongs to the spiritual power … to pass judgment [on the earthly power] if it has not been good.”

As Christians, we are called to be signs of contradiction. At times, this can mean speaking against the decisions of civil authorities, not seditiously, but for the salvation of all concerned. Doing so, however, in no way diminishes the dignity of Church or State by confusing what ought to remain separate; rather, it affirms the universal scope of the Christian faith and the integrity of all aspects of Christian living, spiritual and political. Let us pray then, through the intercession of St. Ambrose, to be faithful citizens.

Love, and a hopeful witness for the Lord,
Matthew

Advent, 4th, 5th, & 6th Circumstances – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

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-The Vision of St Bernard, by Fra Bartolomeo, 1504, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Circumstance 4: For what end must we believe that He came?

“This question is the next in order to be examined; nor will the search demand much labour, for the end and purpose of His coming is proclaimed by His words and His works. To seek after the one sheep of the hundred that had strayed He hastened from the mountains. For our sake He came down from heaven, that His mercies and His wonders might be openly proclaimed to the children of men. O wonderful condescension of God in this search! O wonderful dignity of man who is thus sought! If he should wish to glory in this dignity, it would not be imputed to him as folly. Not that he need think anything of himself, but let him rejoice that He Who made him should set so high a value on him. For all the riches and glory of the world, all that is desirable therein, is far below this glory–nay, can bear no comparison with it. “Lord, what is man that thou should magnify him? and why settest thou thy heart upon him?” (cf Job 7:17).

I still further desire to know why He should come to us, and not we rather go to Him, for the need was on our side, and it is not usual for the rich to go to the poor, though otherwise willing to assist them. It was indeed our place to go forward to Him, but there stood a twofold impediment in the way; for our eyes were heavy, and He “dwelt in light inaccessible.” We lay as paralytics on our beds, and could not raise ourselves to the Divine elevation. Wherefore this most benign Saviour and Physician of souls descended to us from His lofty throne, and tempered His brightness to the weakness of our sight. He clothed Himself with His most glorious and spotless body as with the shade of a lantern, thus attempering to us His splendour. This is that bright and shining cloud upon which the Lord was to descend upon Egypt, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold. (cf Isaiah 19:1).

Circumstance 5: It is now fitting that we should consider the time of our Lord’s coming.

He came, as you know, not in the beginning, nor in the midst of time, but in the end of it. This was no unsuitable choice, but a truly wise dispensation of His infinite wisdom, that He might afford help when He saw it was most needed. Truly, “it was evening, and the day was far (Luke 24:29); the sun had well nigh set, and but a faint ray of his justice light and heat remained on earth. The light of Divine knowledge was very small, and as iniquity abounded, the fervour of charity had grown cold. No angel appeared, no prophet spoke. The angelic vision and the prophetic spirit alike had passed away, both hopelessly baffled by the exceeding obduracy and obstinacy of mankind. Then it was that the Son of God said “Behold, I come” (Hebrews 10:7). And “while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, the almighty word leaped down from heaven from thy royal throne” (Wisdom 18:14-15). Of this coming the Apostle speaks: “When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). The plenitude and affluence of things temporal had brought on the oblivion and penury of things eternal. Fitly, therefore, did the Eternal God come when things of time were reigning supreme. To pass over other points, such was the temporal peace at the birth of Christ that by the edict of one man the whole world was enrolled.

You have now heard Who He is that comes, whence, whither, and to whom He comes; the cause, likewise, and the time of His coming are known to you.

Circumstance 6: One point is yet to be considered namely, the way by which He came.

This must be diligently examined, that we may, as is fitting, go forth to meet Him. As He once came visibly in the body to work our salvation in the midst of the earth, so does He come daily invisibly and in spirit to work the salvation of each individual soul; as it is written: “The Spirit before our face, Christ the Lord.” And that we might know this spiritual advent to be hidden, it is said: “Under his shadow we shall live among the Gentiles” (Lamentations 4:20). Wherefore, if the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour. For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you. Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart. Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). “Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Song of Songs 2:8). You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said: “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Song of Songs 1:7). He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee ; it is high, and thou canst not reach it. Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us. We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose. “Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob” (Matthew 1:2), etc. From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:1-2a). The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, ‘God with us’ ” (Isaiah 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin. But we must reserve for another day further consideration of this sublime mystery, as there is ample material for another sermon, especially as to-day’s has been rather long.”

Love, Joyful Advent, He comes!!!
Matthew

Advent, 2nd & 3rd Circumstance – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

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-St Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint)

Circumstances 2 and 3: Behold, you have heard Who He is that comes; consider now whence and to whom He comes.

“He comes from the heart of God the Father to the womb of a virgin mother; He comes from the highest heaven to this low earth, that we whose conversation is now on earth may have Him for our most desirable companion. For where can it be well with us without Him, and where ill if He be present? “What have I in heaven, and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth? Thou art the God of my heart and the God that is my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:25-26) and “though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” if only “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

But here I see that our Lord descends not only to earth, but even to hell; not as one bound, but as free among the dead; as light that shines in the darkness, “and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Wherefore His soul was not left in hell, nor did His holy body on earth see corruption. For Christ “that descended is the same also that ascended…that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10) “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). And elsewhere we read, He “hath exalted as a giant to run his way…His going forth is from the highest heavens, and his circuit even to the end thereof” (cf Psalm 19:7). Well might St. Paul cry out: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). In vain would the Apostle labour to raise our hearts upwards if he did not teach us that the Author of our salvation is sitting in heaven.

But what follows? The matter here is indeed abundant in the extreme; but our limited time does not admit of a lengthened development. By considering Who He is that comes, we see His supreme and ineffable majesty, and by contemplating whence He comes, we behold the great highway clearly laid out to us. The Prophet Isaiah says: “Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from afar” (Isaiah 30:27). By reflecting whither He comes, we see His inestimable and inconceivable condescension in His descending from highest heavens to abide with us in this miserable prison-house. Who can doubt that there was some grand cause powerful enough to move so sovereign a Majesty to come “from afar,” and condescend to enter a place so unworthy of Him as this world of ours. The cause was in truth great. It was His immense mercy, His multiplied compassion, His abundant charity.”

Love, Joyful Advent!! He comes!!!
Matthew

Advent, 1st Circumstance – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

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-St Bernard

“The name of this great annual commemoration is sufficiently familiar to us; its meaning may not be so well known.

When the unhappy children of Eve had abandoned the pursuit of things true and salutary, they gave themselves up to the search for those that are fleeting and perishable.

To whom shall we liken the men of this generation, or to what shall we compare them, seeing they are unable to tear themselves from earthly and carnal consolations, or disentangle their minds from such trammels? They resemble the shipwrecked who are in danger of being overwhelmed by the waters, and who may be seen catching eagerly at whatever they first grasp, how frail soever it may be. And if anyone strive to rescue them, they are wont to seize and drag him down with them, so that not infrequently the rescuer is involved with them in one common destruction. Thus the children of the world perish miserably while following after transitory things and neglecting those which are solid and enduring, cleaving to which, they might save their souls. Of truth, not of vanity, it is said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Do you, therefore, to whom as to little ones God has revealed things hidden from the wise and prudent, turn your thoughts with earnestness to those that are truly desirable, and diligently meditate on this coming of our Lord (cf Matthew 11:25). Consider:

1. Who He is that comes,
2. Whence He comes,
3. To whom He comes,
4. For what end He comes,
5. When He comes, and
6. In what manner He comes.

This is undoubtedly a most useful and praiseworthy curiosity, for the Church would not so devoutly celebrate the season of Advent if there were not some great mystery hidden therein.

Circumstance 1: Wherefore, in the first place, let us with the Apostle consider in astonishment and admiration how great He is Who comes.

According to the testimony of Gabriel, He is the Son of the Most High, and consequently a coequal with Him. Nor is it lawful to think that the Son of God is other than coequal with His Father. He is coequal in majesty; He is coequal in dignity. Who will deny that the sons of princes are princes, and the sons of kings kings?

But how is it that of the Three Persons Whom we believe, and confess, and adore in the Most High Trinity, it was not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, but the Son that became Man? I imagine this was not without cause. But “who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). Not without some most deep counsel of the Blessed Trinity was it decreed that the Son should become Incarnate. If we consider the cause of our exile, we may perchance be able to comprehend in some degree how fitting it was that our deliverance should be chiefly accomplished by the Son.

Lucifer, who rose brightly as the morning star, because he attempted to usurp a similitude with the Most High, and “it was thought robbery in him to equal himself with God,” an equality which was the Son’s by right, was cast down from heaven and ruined; for the Father was zealous for the glory of the Son, and seemed by this act to say: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And instantly “I saw Satan as lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

Dust and ashes, why art thou proud? If God spared not pride in His angels, how much less will He tolerate it in thee, innate corruption? Satan had committed no overt act, he had but consented to a thought of pride, yet in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, he was irreparably rejected because, as the Evangelist says, “he stood not in the truth” (John 8:44). Fly pride, my brethren, I most earnestly beseech you. “Pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sirach 10:13) and how quickly did it darken and overshadow with eternal obscurity Lucifer, the most bright and beautiful of the heavenly spirits, and, from not only an angel, but the first of angels, transform him into a hideous devil! Wherefore, envying man’s happiness, he brought forth in him the evil which he had conceived in himself by persuading man that if he should eat of the forbidden tree he would become as God, having a knowledge of good and evil. Wretch! what dost thou promise, when thou knowest that the Son of God has the key of knowledge yea, and is Himself the “key of David, that shutteth and no man openeth” (cf Revelation 3:7) that “in Him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God?” (Colossians 2:3). Wouldst thou, then, wickedly steal them away to give them to men?

You see, my brethren, how true is the sentence of our Lord, “The devil is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He was a liar in saying, “I will be like unto the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14) and he was the father of lies when he breathed his spirit of falsity into man. “You will be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). And wilt thou, man, “seeing the thief, run with him?” (Psalm 50:18). You have heard, my brethren, what has been read this night from Isaiah. The Prophet says to the Lord, “Thy princes are faithless, companions of thieves” or, as another version has it, “disobedient companions of thieves” (Isaiah 1:23). In truth, Adam and Eve were disobedient companions of thieves, for, by the counsel of the serpent, or, rather, of the devil in the serpent, they tried to seize upon what belonged by birthright to the Son of God. Nor did the Father overlook the injury, for the Father loveth the Son. He immediately took revenge on that same man, and let His hand fall on us all, “for in Adam all have sinned” and in his sentence of condemnation we have shared.

What, then, did the Son do, seeing His Father so zealous for His glory, and for His sake sparing none of His creatures? “Behold,” He says, “on My account My Father has ruined His creatures: the first of the angels aspired to My throne of sovereignty, and had followers who believed in him; and instantly My Father’s zeal was heavily revenged on him, striking him and all his adherents with an incurable plague, with a dire chastisement. Man, too, attempted to steal from Me the knowledge which belongs to Me alone, and neither doth My Father show him mercy, nor doth His eye spare him. He had made two noble orders sharing His reason, capable of participating in His beatitude, angels and men; but behold, on My account He hath ruined a multitude of His angels and the entire race of men. Therefore, that they may know that I love My Father, He shall receive back through Me what in a certain way He seems to have lost through Me. ‘It is on my account this storm has arisen take me and cast me into the sea’ (Jonah 1:12). All are envious of Me; behold I come, and will exhibit Myself to them in such a guise as that whosoever shall wish may become like to Me; whatsoever I shall do they may imitate, so that their envy shall be made good and profitable to them.”

The angels, we know, sinned through malice, not through ignorance and frailty; wherefore, as they were unwilling to repent, must of necessity perish, for the love of the Father and the honor of the King demand judgment. For this cause He created men from the beginning, that they might fill those lost places, and repair the ruins of the heavenly Jerusalem. For He knew “the pride of Moab, that he is exceedingly proud” (Isaiah 16:6) and that his pride would never seek the remedy of repentance, nor, consequently, of pardon. After man’s fall, however, He created no other creature in his place, thus intimating that man should yet be redeemed, and that he who had been supplanted by another’s malice might still by another’s charity be redeemed.

Be it so, dear Lord, I beseech Thee. Be pleased to deliver me, for I am weak. Like Joseph of old, I was stolen away from my country, and here without any fault was cast into a dungeon. Yet I am not wholly innocent, but innocent compared with him who seduced me. He deceived me with a lie: let the truth come, that falsehood may be discovered, and that I may know the truth, and that the truth may make me free. But to gain the freedom I must renounce the falsehood when discovered, and adhere to the known truth; otherwise the temptation would not be human, nor the sin a human sin, but diabolical obstinacy. To persevere in evil is the act of the devil, and those who persevere in evil after his example deservedly perish with him.”

Love, Joyful Advent, He comes!!!
Matthew

Dark Night of the Soul & Senses

Dr. Benedict Nguyen is the new Diocese of Venice Director of Communications and Office of Worship. He began his position on June 30 and comes from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisc.
Dr. Benedict Nguyen is the new Diocese of Venice Director of Communications and Office of Worship. He began his position on June 30 and comes from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisc.

Dr. BENEDICT NGUYEN
B.A., M.T.S., J.D./J.C.L., D.Min (ABD)

Benedict Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liturgical Musicology from the University of Kansas; a Master of Theological Studies from the University of Dallas-Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies; and a Pontifical Licentiate degree in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He began his legal studies at the Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. and completed his law degree at the Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was a three-time recipient of the CALI Award for academic excellence in corporate law, non-profit law and critical studies in law and region. He is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Biblical Exposition at the Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Delafield, Wisconsin.

For eight years he served as the Chancellor for the Diocese of La Crosse where he was a canon lawyer for the Diocese, the Diocesan Director of Communications & Media Relations, the Diocesan Director of Catholic Cemeteries, a Defender of the Bond in the Matrimonial Tribunal, and was a five-term Chairman of the Board for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse. He has also held the positions of Director of Communications and Director of the Office of Sacred Worship for the Diocese of Venice in Florida.

In academics, he served as an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University where he taught courses in canon law, liturgy, morality, ecclesiology, social ethics, and pastoral theology. For several years, he was the Upper School Dean at Providence Classical Academy in La Crosse, WI, where he was also as an instructor in religion, music, Latin, Greek, classical Aristotelian logic, and rhetoric. He has also taught as a Visiting Lecturer and instructor for the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.

Currently, he is the Canonical Counsel & Theological Advisor for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, TX. He continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor for the Avila Institute For Spiritual Formation.

As a licensed attorney with the Wisconsin Bar Association and an active canon lawyer, he continues to practice as a legal and canonical consultant to various dioceses, religious institutions, apostolates, non-profit organizations, schools and individuals across the country.

He is a national lecturer and has published in several publications including Catholic World Report, the National Catholic Register, Xaire, The Catholic Education Resource Center, Regina Magazine, The Catholic Herald in London, as well as numerous diocesan newspapers and magazines.

He and his wife Beth have five children.

http://dioceseofvenice.org/new-director-of-communications-and-office-of-worship/

http://soul-candy.info/2012/11/dec-14-st-john-of-the-cross-1541-1591-doctor-of-the-church-doctor-of-mystical-theology/

http://soul-candy.info/2015/01/dec-14-st-john-of-the-cross-the-darkness-of-unknowing/

SESSION_7_PDF_Slides_Fall_2015

Love,
Matthew

Oct 15 – Let nothing disturb you….

st_teresa_confessional
-confessional regularly used by St Teresa of Avila at the Dominican priory in Salamanca.

toby-lees
-by Br Toby Lees, OP, English Province

“St Teresa was born in Avila, in 1515. The 16th century was a time of turmoil in many areas of life, not least in the Church, but also, thanks to women like Teresa, a time of reform and renewal. Her mother died when she was 13, and despite her father’s protestations, she entered the Carmelites, aged 20. However, she soon became very ill and had to be sent home to recover at home for a number of years. Undeterred, when well enough, she returned to the Carmel and through a life of continual striving to love God more and more, she received extraordinary spiritual experiences and wonderful insights into the life of prayer. These insights are still a great gift to the Church thanks to her engaging writings.

She was granted the realization that God alone is changeless and permanent, and that when we seek solace in anything other than God, we are really placing our hopes in the ephemeral where we will never find peace. What helped make Teresa a saint though was that this insight did not remain at the level of mere insight. Instead it became recognition of a reality which she allowed to transform her life. One way in which she aided herself in this task of continual dedication to love God above all things is beautifully reflected in some of her words which she recorded on a bookmark, which she then used to keep her focussed on what truly matters:

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

You may enjoy listening to this beautiful setting of these words sung by a virtual choir of 93 Carmelite nuns from 24 countries to celebrate the 500th anniversary of her birth.

Another of Teresa’s great lessons to us – at time when we hear many arguments about power within the Church – is that holiness has its own authority. Always born out of humility, holiness is more powerful that any title, status or position. Who would have believed that this frail lady, who suffered with poor health, would reform her Order; found many new houses of Carmel throughout Spain; and be at the forefront of a great renewal of spirituality within the Church? Despite little formal education, her receptivity to God means that 500 years on she still has much to teach us, and she is rightly recognized as one of the Doctors of the Church. It is one of the beautiful paradoxes often found in the lives of the saints, that one who spent so much of her life in the cloister has so much to teach those who live outside of it. Her reflection on the Church as the body of Christ is as challenging and as relevant to us as the day she wrote it:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

no hands but yours,

no feet but yours,

yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion

is to look out to the earth,

yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good

and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

Love,
Matthew